Fitness is a topic that has exponentially evolved over the most recent decades. Researchers are getting down to the nitty gritty details of performance and giving never-ending suggestions of how to see improvement. There’s constantly a new piece to the puzzle, and with most of this information available (quite literally) at our fingertips, it can quickly become overwhelming. For someone who may just be starting out on their fitness journey, or even for a seasoned professional, it can be extremely beneficial to take a step back.
Let’s remove all the bells and whistles and really dive into what can build a solid
Build a Solid Fitness Foundation
Listed below are some common fitness terms. You may be familiar with all of them, or you may be familiar with none of them! It never hurts to cover the basics.
Rep– one performance of a single exercise.
Set– the number of repetitions performed without stopping.
Rest– time spent waiting in between two sets.
Concentric contraction- the part of the exercise in which the muscle gets shorter (ex: the first
half of a dumbbell curl when you’re pulling the weight against gravity).
Eccentric contraction- the part of the exercise in which the muscle gets longer (ex: the second half of a dumbbell curl when you’re resisting the weight as it lowers with gravity).
1RM– One rep max; This the greatest amount of weight that you can lift for one rep.
RIR– rests in reserve; this is the number of additional reps you could potentially complete after the set before failure. For example: if you complete a set of 8 reps with 2 RIR, by the end of the 8th rep, you should be able to possibly squeeze out two more reps. This concept is a good way to gauge whether you are using an adequate weight.
PR– personal record; This term is used when you’ve reached a new personal best.
Here are few additional things that are important to focus on while training;
Always warm up: By immediately jumping into a workout without giving your muscles the
chance to warm up, you greatly increase your chances of injury. Whether it be a brisk jog on the treadmill, dynamic (active) stretching, or performing several reps of an exercise with a lighter weight, always make sure your body is nice and warm.
Prioritize form over weight 100% of the time: When first learning or performing an exercise, it is advised that you to stick to a lighter weight and really focus on perfecting your form before adding heavier weight. Having good form will not only maximize your results, but it is essential in protecting yourself against injuries.
Use your resources: If you are unfamiliar with how to perform an exercise, never hesitate to ask a trainer (especially at Zone 6)! They will always be more than happy to walk you through the correct technique. There are also thousands of YouTube tutorials available online, just be careful to choose a reliable source.
Listen to your body: Training, especially when first starting out, can be painful and
uncomfortable. Mild discomfort is part of the exercise process and is necessary for growth; do not let this hinder your progress. Tips to avoid soreness are always making sure to warm-up prior to your workout, staying hydrated, getting adequate protein in your diet, and stretching/cooling down afterwards. That being said, if something starts to hurt more than you believe it should, stop immediately and notify a medical professional to evaluate what could be the cause. If it feels wrong, it likely is.
Active rest days: Just because you are on a “rest” day, that doesn’t mean you can’t get up and moving! Take your dog on a walk, throw around a ball with a friend, or just get some fresh air. It can work wonders on your mental health, not to mention your body will obviously benefit from it as well.
Mind-to-muscle connection: When performing any exercise, it is important to really be present and focus on the muscle it is you are working. Try to avoid distractions like being on your phone or talking with a friend during sets; this will really ensure that you are getting the most out of your workouts. It can take up to 8 weeks for your brain to fully develop a “mind-to-muscle” connection, so be patient and consistent.
The biggest factor that will contribute to your success long term is sustainability. If something isn’t sustainable, you are immediately setting yourself up for failure. Fad diets such as the ketogenic (keto) diet or intermittent fasting have the ability to deliver results quickly but can be very difficult to maintain for the long haul.
That is why I truly believe in the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time you should follow a healthy meal plan, and the other 20% is where you can work in more flexibility. If you are going out to dinner with friends on a Friday night, don’t stress about weighing out exactly how many ounces of chicken you are eating– enjoy your life! Eat and drink things that bring you joy.
At the same time, be mindful of your goals and the commitment you have made to yourself. It is not about being perfect– it is about making progress. If you’re really serious about hitting fitness goals, tracking your calories is a great way to remove any guess work from the equation. There are many free apps available, such as MyFitnessPal, that allow you to do this with ease. It can be a tedious process at first, but logging this information every day will give you a clear picture of what your daily intake looks like and will ultimately contribute to your success. It is not a habit that you need to continue forever, but being able to visualize serving sizes and their caloric amounts is a great tool to be able to carry through the rest of your life.
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Water: It sounds cliche, but getting enough water is one of the most important factors when it comes to improving your overall health. Staying hydrated can help regulate your body temperature, flush out your system of toxins, keep you feeling full and satiated, improve your blood pressure, reduce migraines, improve your skin health, aid in digestion– the list goes on and on. Unless you are being intentional with your water intake, chances are, you are not getting enough.
Sleep: Like water, the benefits of getting a quality night’s sleep are endless– aim to get 7-8 hours of solid sleep each night. This will be a huge aid in improving your mental health, energy levels, focus, mood, appetite, and overall fat loss. Tips to consider include reducing/eliminating screen time 1-2 hours before bed, limiting caffeine intake later in the day, and maintaining a consistent bedtime/routine.
Weigh-ins: Although weight is definitely a factor to consider on any fitness journey, it is important not to get too hung up on it. Losing weight is ultimately a great goal to have, however there are so many other areas in which a “win” can occur and it is important to focus on those as well. Maybe a month ago you could only run 1 mile, but this month you were able to run 2. Maybe you don’t feel as out of breath when taking the stairs at work. Maybe you use to be terrified of stepping into a gym but now you’re going once a week. A win is a win! Don’t sell yourself short. If you do choose to track your weight, it is important to know that it fluctuates greatly throughout the day due to several different factors, so the best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning before you’ve consumed anything. Try to wear as minimal clothing as possible and use the same scale every time to maintain accuracy.
Stress: Stress affects your body in many different ways and can be very mentally tolling. It can get in the way of your training and productivity, so make an effort to stay on top of it. Figure out where it could possibly be stemming from and form a solution as to how it can be managed. Talk to a trainer about what’s on your mind, and maybe you can come up with a solution together!
Hormones: More specifically in women, hormones can often cause fluctuations in your weight, so do not feel discouraged if you are experiencing this during your menstrual cycle.
When it comes down to it, if you work hard and stay consistent, you will see results. The only possible way to fail is to quit.